Athletics: Tough standards mean minimal Olympic picks

By Dylan Cleaver

Nikki Hamblin comfortably wins the national 1500m title yesterday but her time of 4m 19.63s was well outside the Olympic qualifying mark. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nikki Hamblin comfortably wins the national 1500m title yesterday but her time of 4m 19.63s was well outside the Olympic qualifying mark. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The NZOC yesterday named an athletics team you could count on the fingers of one hand, while using your thumb to upload the news on your smart phone.

Even accounting for the fact the team will swell from its current four to a likely end-point of nine, it could be the leanest athletics team since Seoul 1988 (6) and the second-equal smallest since the 1952 Helsinki Games.

While it would be nice to see black singlets blazing around the London track and bullying the field disciplines, a small team who have qualified with stringent selection criteria is no bad thing. Remember Athens, where New Zealand's squad of 13 ended up being about seven too many?

Valerie Adams, Nick Willis, Kimberley Smith and Stuart Farquhar were all given the nod yesterday after the national athletics championships at West Auckland.

Of those Adams and Willis have both won Olympic medals and it would be a brave punter who would back against the former securing another.

Smith has acquitted herself well in the marathon and javelin thrower Farquhar will be desperate to improve on his Olympic record of 20th and 25th.

Race walker Quentin Rew will soon officially join those four after beating the IAAF 'A' standard in Slovenia over the weekend. His 3h 58m 48s was 11s inside the standard.

With some confidence you can also add the names Nikki Hamblin, Adrian Blincoe, Brent Newdick and Jacko Gill, though use pencil rather than ink for a couple.

Middle-distance runner Hamblin, who won two silver medals in Delhi, has just returned from injury. She was untroubled in winning the national 1500m title yesterday, but will need to show form against better fields before being rubber-stamped.

Her 4m 19.63s was still 12s shy of the Olympic qualifying standard, not that it was particularly important.

"I [didn't] expect to be named in that because I haven't raced," she said. "I thought if I did something decent like a 4m 08s today that might have been enough to get me in the team, but really I think it's a bit quick for me right now."

Distance runner Blincoe races out of the US and his season is set to start in May. He too will be asked to show "current form" before getting endorsed in the second wave of selections on July 8.

Gill and decathlete Newdick are virtual certainties too.

But with New Zealand allowed just one 'B' qualifier in each event, the selectors have to give their closest challengers - Tom Walsh and Scott McLaren respectively - time to surpass them.

"The selectors did not believe it fair to close off selection with still more than 100 days to Games time," said convener Graham O'Brien.

There are other long shots still trying, with 100m hurdler Andrea Miller and sprinter Monique Williams best placed to make a rails run, but it would be a major surprise if you needed to move on to your toes to keep counting.

- NZ Herald

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